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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedchuk Promises Powerful Opposition

APMedvedchuk in Kiev on Wednesday
KIEV -- Viktor Medvedchuk, former President Leonid Kuchma's chief of staff, is promising to build a powerful opposition to Ukraine's new president, Viktor Yushchenko.

Medvedchuk, one of the former government's most feared and influential figures, said he is not afraid that his opponents are now in control. "The government lost. We can't stay in power or pretend to be in power," he told journalists Wednesday in his first wide-ranging news conference in more than two years. "We have only one way out: go into the opposition."

As Kuchma's right-hand man since 2002, Medvedchuk operated behind the political scenes -- earning the nickname "gray eminence." He has been accused of orchestrating the fraud in the Nov. 21 runoff that declared Viktor Yanukovych the winner. The Supreme Court annulled the vote and ordered a rerun, which Yushchenko won.

Medvedchuk angrily denied the allegations and all other attempts to link him with alleged crimes during Kuchma's decade in office.

"I have always been and will remain a law-abiding citizen," Medvedchuk said. "I have not violated the law and don't plan to violate the law."

He added that he has no plans to take up a place on behalf of his party in parliament before next year's parliamentary elections because "people would say that Medvedchuk was trying to receive lawmaker's immunity."

"Moreover, I don't plan to leave the country," he said.

Yushchenko has pledged to fight corruption, and the nomination of Yuliya Tymoshenko to the post of prime minister has led to speculation that some members of the former government may face prosecution.

"If such attempts take place, I will consider them political repression against the opponent," Medvedchuk said.

Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (Renewed) has been hemorrhaging members in recent months and now has 23 lawmakers in the 450-member parliament. Nevertheless, Medvedchuk said the party will position itself as a center and center-left opposition and work to "defend the interests of all 44 percent who voted for our candidate [Yanukovich],"

Medvedchuk said they will work with Yanukovych, who leads the Party of the Regions and has also vowed to form a strong opposition.